Keith and Shilpa Wymer own Pitman Training Centres in locations in both the north and south of the UK.

Here they share how they have managed to sustain healthy, growing businesses thanks to clear structure and growth plans.

We are very focused in our business approach, and we really believe in having a strong structure to help drive our business forward. We believe the secrets of our success comes down to the close management of:

  1. People
  2. Marketing
  3. Sales
  4. Finance
  5. Training delivery
  6. Customer management
  7. IT and telephony systems

On the people front, it's essential to hire reliable, motivated people with a desire to help your customers "better themselves" through training.

Marketing must be aggressive, vigorous and continuous with a budget ring fenced for at least 13% of projected turnover. So if you want £1m of sales, you must be prepared to spend £130,000 on marketing. I think a lot of people forget about this basic equation.

A potential franchisee must understand that we are in the business of reselling Pitman Training diplomas and courses rather than the business of education. Whilst it's great to help people with our training, we have to grow our business so our sales effort therefore must be robust, credible and continuous. People will not just buy from you. You need to sell to them – even if it's something they really need.

Financing training can be a challenge for some, and many of our students are only able to commit to studying with us because we offer payment installment plans. These must be closely managed and defaults dealt with proactively. It's essential to be able to manage your debtors book and to read a balance sheet. Cash flow forecasting is also essential to managing a healthy, growing business. Your bank is unlikely to help you so you must be prepared to commit significant sums to the business to maintain cash flow.

Something I believe passionately is that it's impossible for the business owner to deliver the training while at the same time managing the business unless you just want to create a job for yourself. Therefore it is essential to hire people who can ensure the consistent delivery of the excellent Pitman Training courses so that you can get on with managing the business.Another discovery we have made is that unless you commit realistic sums to your IT and telephony infrastructure, you will be unable to concentrate on the business. Never underestimate the importance of technology in this business.

We totally appreciate that the power of the Pitman brand also plays a key role in our success. The Pitman Training brand is useful in converting sales from potential students. We believe the brand represents a training methodology that is nationally recognised as the benchmark in providing practical, transferrable skills and this is a fantastic starting point for us.It is then our responsibility however to make our business work for us, and we are delighted to say our methods above are providing us with strong, robust businesses, even in these difficult financial times.